MANIFF 2017 preview and interview: The Backseat

Manchester Film Festival introduces some of the world’s finest independent cinema to the city.

A diverse selection of new film is available from narrative features and short films to documentaries and animation.

The festival, now in its third year, is a rare opportunity for discerning film fans to see independent films largely unavailable elsewhere, including some exclusive premieres.

Forty-one short films will be screened over seven sessions throughout the weekend.


“People are, like, proper weird, right? Trust me… you see everything from back here” –   Shelby, The Backseat

The Backseat is a short film directed by Miranda Howard-Williams and produced by Adam Smith.

Filmed on a micro budget, it documents a day-in-the-life of brash youth Shelby (Kate Lassman Long), who rides the local buses from dusk till dawn.

From the backseat of the bus, Shelby holds court and openly broadcasts her thoughts on the people that shape the world around her.

Passengers board the bus but remain oblivious to Shelby’s public stream-of-consciousness. It becomes evident that the viewer is the sole witness to this young girl’s confidences as her true vulnerability is unmasked.

Mancunian Matters spoke with the director and producer about their film and the significance of being screened at MANIFF17.

Mancunian Matters: Hi Miranda and Adam, thanks for your time! What was the budget for The Backseat?

Adam Smith: The film was produced on a budget of £10,000 and largely funded by IdeasTap (a charitable organisation established to assist emerging talent in the creative industry now defunct due to public funding cuts).

MM: IdeasTap – how important was their funding and support?

AS: IdeasTap were fantastic because they gave us a large chunk of the funding but also allowed us to get on with the film that we wanted to make. Unfortunately, they have since shut down but the work they did has been in part taken up by Hiive, a growing community of thousands of creative professionals.

MM: What challenges are unique to producing short films?

AS: Raising money for short films is probably what most people would say is one of the major issues, however, I think the biggest challenge is probably coming up with a story that you want to tell and that story being something that suits the short film format.

Many short films are really an initial feature film concept squashed into ten or twenty minutes rather than a well-constructed cinematic story that suits the time you give the audience to digest it on-screen.

MM: Kate Lassman Long (Shelby) – How did she impress you at auditions?

Miranda Howard-Williams: Kate just had a wonderful and natural quality to her from the first moment we met her. Kate saw how Shelby was putting up a front to the world. She could combine the hardness and aggression with the underlying vulnerability of the character.

MM: What do you want the audience to take away from the film?

MHW: While the film does raise important social issues, I don’t want people to feel preached to by the film. What I do hope is that it makes people reassess how they may sometimes view and dismiss others, and give people a deeper understanding of how some people can simply fall through the gaps in society.

All in all, everyone is looking for meaningful connections with others and I hope that The Backseat shows that this is all Shelby really wants.

MM: How important are film festivals like MANIFF17 to the success of a short film?

AS: In some ways, the film lives or dies based on festival appearances. While they eventually will go onto online platforms, the festival run of the film is really important to both the film and the filmmakers journey.

If you don’t get your film into festivals, you just don’t get an audience. We have had a great reception for The Backseat, with the screening at Brest European Short Film Festival being in a wonderfully large theatre. That exposed us to some interesting filmmakers from all over Europe and the paying public in Brest, France.

We are hoping for a similar experience in Manchester.

MM: After the festival circuit, what is next for The Backseat?

AS: The film will probably be released onto Vimeo or other platforms where it will be able to be seen more easily.

Whilst a film is on the festival circuit, it is fun but it can feel like you’re in some way reserving it only for those who are acutely interested in short films and happen to be in the area for that festival. Once it goes online it will be infinitely more accessible to a wider audience and we hope people enjoy watching it on the small screen.

MM: What do you think of the other short films at MANIFF17?

MHW: I loved Only Child when I saw it at the Oxford International Film Festival last year – the opening shot is incredible and shows the power of visual storytelling. I have also heard great things about Sweet Maddie Stone, so I am looking forward to seeing that this weekend.

MM: What is next for Miranda Howard-Williams?

MHW: I’m passionate about television drama and I’m looking to break into directing for TV in 2017. I have an online TV series in development and I’m also working on a number of projects varying from a sketch comedy to high-concept science fiction!

MM: Great stuff, thanks and good luck to you both!

Image courtesy of Manchester Film Festival via YouTube, with thanks.

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